SANs Containers, Containers without SANs

An old storage technology gets a reboot. The modern storage network to enable the vision of multi-cloud portability and help you be a data protection Super Hero.

The new digital imperative

The urgency and importance given to digital transformation is natural. Faced with broken business models and digital disruption, companies have poured massive investment into agile software development. Whilst money has been no object for cloud-native projects, core IT assets have been left in maintenance mode.

Software developers are the new rock stars of IT, consuming infrastructure like the commodity it is. Spinning up whatever they need to increase the speed and agility of DevOps.

The Rise of the infrastructure developer

An eleven-year stock market bull run has ended. Corporate profitability is coming off its peak of 2019 and businesses have combined to build up over $74 trillion of debt, much of it in bonds. As share prices fall, bond prices go up and their principal payments will soon fall due. In 2020, cash is again king.

It’s imperative that digital transformation projects continue to receive investment. However, the cash saving skills of IT Operators are needed to check the profligacy, and prevent unnecessary infrastructure spend.

The Return of the SAN

Technology trends come and go, sometimes they loop back around. Twenty years ago, Storage Networks were all the rage when EMC Corporation’s share price peaked in April 2000. As storage prices came down, direct attached storage steadily killed off the Storage Area Network (SAN). Now when developers need compute, they simply order up the fastest block storage they need from their chosen cloud vendor. No wonder IaaS bills from the big vendors like AWS, Azure and Google have skyrocketed.

History tells us it can take a major change in circumstances for new technology to be adopted. We believe the current downturn will help to accelerate an exciting storage technology, which is on the verge of exploding. That technology is Non-Volatile Memory Express over Fabric (NVMe-oF, or simply NVMF).

Published in June 2016, version 1 of the protocol was designed to enable data transfers between a host computer and a target solid-state storage device or system. And be able to do this over a network. Transfer methods can be via Ethernet, Fibre Channel (FC) or InfiniBand. Put simply, the benefit of NVMe-oF is in providing the same speed and low-latency of direct attached storage, with the cost saving benefits of networked storage.

Enabling multi-cloud and cloud-to-edge. The container explosion

The need for speed in edge computing is obvious. The rise of container multi-clusters also demands fast, low latency storage solutions, wherever they reside. This new world of container workload migration will be enabled by the flexibility of networked storage. Better cost optimisation will come from the improved utilisation of shared pooling. This is what makes NVMe-oF such a compelling technology for multi-cloud and edge computing.

According to Gartner, more than 75 percent of global organisations will be running containerised applications in production in 2022, compared with under 30 percent today. With containers used in the cloud, the edge and the core, traditional IT operators with storage expertise should start to exert their influence in future data architectures.

Maybe its time for some of you storage SMEs to come in from the cold. You’re needed again, and you have some new toys to play with.


By Alistair Mackenzie, CEO
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